When it comes to cheating you have to hand it to VAR

Pyrotechnics, blaring music, and boundless optimism was in abundance at the Etihad Stadium as Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City set out on their ‘home’ campaign to win a third consecutive Premier League title.

By the conclusion of an incredibly controversial game, we had ‘fireworks’, a crescendo of boos and a storm of cynicism enveloping the home of the Champions of English football.

Holy Jesus – City striker Gabriel can’t believe Referee Michael Oliver’s VAR induced decision.

City had faced up to a force – an ‘opponent’ – which could prove to be the biggest impediment to them retaining the Premier League, and it wasn’t Mauricio  Pochettino’s Spurs.

Tottenham’s title pretenders escaped with a 2-2 draw, whereas City lost to the subjective vagaries of VAR.

Gabriel Jesus’ disallowed last minute ‘winner’ is the focus of all the raging arguments and screaming headlines, but perversely, that isn’t necessarily anything to do with VAR.

Karma? No, deja vu! Pep and Poch in touchline discussion.

In this instance the change to the ‘handball rule’ is the culprit.

It effectively disallows any ‘goal’ if the ball is touched by an attacking player, even accidentally or however minuscule, in the run of play leading up to a ‘goal’. 

However, the same draconian interpretation doesn’t apply to defenders, so if the ball accidentally hits a defender, the defending side is not penalised.

It is ridiculous rule that is skewed completely in favour of the defending team. 

Sterling start – City went one up with Raheem’s fourth goal in the opening two Premier League fixtures.

VAR official, Graham Scott chose to apply the strictest interpretation of the idiotic law, when the ball barely brushed Aymeric Laporte’s forearm. The ‘handball’ did not alter the flight of the ball or its trajectory. It would have still landed at the feet of Jesus. 

It was a betrayal of the spirit of football and the so-called ‘Beautiful Game’, an affront to supporters, who pay to go and watch the pulsating package called Premier League football.

Only time will tell if the new and divisive rule, will be applied in an even and fair handed fashion, across the course of the season. Can you imagine some faceless wonder in Stockley Park chalking off a last minute Mo Salah winner in front of The Kop, because the ball brushed a manicured Firmino fingernail, on its way to the Pharoah of Bootle?

Moving back to the technology, as opposed to the lunatic lawmakers, the biggest obstacle to fair play is the selective usage of VAR.

City fans are no different from any others in wanting their team to win. Even with a Catalan genius at the helm, City will inevitably lose matches. The perceived consolation with VAR was that if, as and when your team loses – or in this case draws – it does so fairly and squarely. Hopefully most fans can live with that – even in these unenlightened days of rabid and moronic social media comment.

All smiles before VAR was declared on City…again!

Sadly, the perception is light years away from reality.

VAR can still be used to screw teams, both actively and passively. Graham Scott actively sought Laporte’s ‘handball’. Nobody present at the Etihad; players, officials, fans, Sky TV cameras, commentators or pundits had even the slightest of misgivings.

There was absolutely no ‘clear and obvious error’ by Michael Oliver.

Ref Michael Oliver with a pea in his whistle as VAR takes the ‘pee’ out of City.

Rewind to the first half when City fans were rightly outraged that a stonewall penalty on Rodri was not given. Here, you see VAR in its poisonous and passive state.

Erik Lamela must’ve thought he was auditioning for the WWF wrestling circuit when he grappled City’s new defensive midfielder to the ground.

It’s bad enough that Oliver – with a clear sight of the foul – saw fit to turn a blind eye. It’s nigh on incomprehensible that Scott, didn’t see fit to inform Oliver that the ref had made a ‘clear and obvious error’ in not awarding the penalty. If you weren’t working for PGMOL or affiliated to Spurs, it was a penalty all day, all night, 24-7-365.

Deft touch – Sergio Aguero restored City’s well desered lead in the first half.

How can supporters, for one moment, trust a system that is so subjective, selective and open to abuse, interpretation and even corruption?

It’s well known that wrestling is classed as ‘entertainment’ rather than a bona fide sport. Outcomes of the bouts are so often ‘fixed’ – there’s no pretence. It is what it is. At least wrestling is honest about its ‘dishonesty’, unlike VAR.

After yesterday you may as well place VAR in an adjacent category to WWF, when it comes to pre-determined outcomes.

If only Laporte sounded more like Llorente, then Spurs would’ve, quite rightly, lost the game, just as City would’ve triumphed in last season’s Champions League Quarter Final.

Rodri had his hands on silverware earlier in the month. Erik Lamela had his hands on City’s defensive midfielder for a stonewall penalty, ignored by VAR.

The ex-Spurs striker’s handball goal wouldn’t have stood and City would have progressed 4-3 on aggregate.

Yes, of course Sterling’s last gasp ‘winner’, on that fateful April 17th night was rightly ruled offside by VAR, but it would’ve been of no consequence had City been leading 4-2.

Similarly, yesterday, a converted first half penalty would have had City up 3-2 before Messrs Scott and Oliver delivered their coup de grace.

Elation to desolation – Sterling celebrates City’s ‘winner’ in the Champions League QF against Spurs last April. VAR had other ideas.

What had seemed like City karma for the Champions League cock up was suddenly, horribly, reversed into a distasteful dollop of déjà vu.

Another of VAR’s many shortcomings is that the proverbial tail is wagging the dog. Put another way, Michael Oliver was Graham Scott’s poodle and, if the poodle was a female, effectively Scott’s bitch.

The clue should be in the title – Video Assistant Referee – but it’s not working like that. Oliver didn’t have a TV monitor to be able to review any of his decisions or indeed, non-decisions. All Oliver had was Scott in his ear, telling him – in Scott’s opinion – what was right and wrong.

The vagaries of VAR!

VAR is showing itself as very capable in not righting wrongs. Far from removing controversy from football it’s achieving the polar opposite.

The one incontrovertible truth is that sadly – especially for City fans – the VAR is far from over!


By David Walker

A timely dedication today for a man who last night, declared football as ‘dead’ following the VAR debacle. Kevin Parker will be the ‘Maine Man’ at the Manchester City Official Supporters Club 70th Anniversary dinner tonight in Manchester. A diehard Blue for 49 years – 20 of those as the Honorary General Secretary of the OSC – Kevin is a superb ambassador for City fans and universally respected by all.


www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu



  1. August 18, 2019  3:07 pm by Raziq Reply

    Better city's arab owners withdraw their money from europe and invest elsewhere .

    • August 18, 2019  3:31 pm by David Walker Reply

      And why would they do that Raziq when they're building a football dynasty at City? I wonder who you support? Feeling fearful?

  2. August 18, 2019  3:34 pm by Jude Reply

    Unbelievably good read & perfectly summed up. I can’t for the life of me understand why theres only 1 VAR official, that alone is open to cheating. Put 3 in separate locations with a correct / incorrect button & we should get at least some fairness. The system stinks of total corruption !!!

    • August 18, 2019  3:58 pm by David Walker Reply

      Sadly it probably wouldn't make a jot of difference. There'd all be linked to PGMOL and they'd all have received the memo/email with the subject title: It's Liverpool's Year ;-) The beauty of Pep's team is that it's good enough to win by a big enough margin to make VAR inconsequential. It didn't happen yesterday but can you just imagine Guardiola drilling it into their mindset. We didn't help ourselves yesterday being profligate in front of goal and dozy in defence, but we can, and will sharpen up. It's the same old, same old - we have to beat the opponents, the officials and the authorities. Thankfully we are more than capable. Thanks for your comment.

  3. August 18, 2019  3:35 pm by Ned Reply


    • August 18, 2019  4:02 pm by David Walker Reply

      Why not give it a go? That said, PGMOL and the Premier League would probably stick a virus in the software labelled 'Only teams wearing red can win the title'. Thanks fella.

  4. August 18, 2019  4:04 pm by Andrew Bissell Reply

    You are absolutely right with what you say here. Wolves suffered the same injustice last week away to LCFC. On this new rule, the law is an ass I am afraid. But I strongly agree with your point that these two examples both show the tail wagging the dog and not as should be, the other way round.

    • August 18, 2019  4:46 pm by David Walker Reply

      Precisely! If matches could be won, drawn and lost in a definitive and fair fashion it would be totally acceptable. You have to factor in human frailties, but it's the inconsistent application of decisions, by both referees and VAR, which causes the greatest levels of consternation. Thanks for your comment.

  5. August 18, 2019  4:06 pm by Doug Henshaw Reply

    Top read again Dave. I was there yesterday & the pen that wasn't was virtually in front of me, it wasn't a maybe wasn't a might be it was a stonewall pen not given by the ref or VAR. Now the handball apperantly accidentally or not its an offence. So on Wednesday Liverpool player shoots hits a Chelsea player in the penalty area nothing. Its not VAR that's wrong it's the stupid rules that need changing.

    • August 18, 2019  4:43 pm by David Walker Reply

      I'd say the handball rule is just plain daft and VAR is not all high tech wizardry and gadgets, it's just another dodgy ref looking at a monitor and seeing what he wants to see. VAR is great in principle but it's not objective, it's subjective, and still in the hands of PGMOL and the Premier League - neither of which are bastions of integrity. Thanks again Doug.

  6. August 18, 2019  5:59 pm by Steve Barker Reply

    Still.in shock from those two decisions they ended up costing us 2 points. The real disappointing fact is we had 30 attempts at goal and only scored 2 we should have put this game to bed well before the VAR handball and without the need of a blatant pen.
    Some great save from Lloris nothing should be taken away from his display we need to take our chances against a poor Spurs who had 3 attempts yet equaled our own goal tally.

    • August 18, 2019  7:35 pm by David Walker Reply

      Putting aside VAR and the handball rule, we only had ourselves to blame for our profligacy in front of goal and dozy defending. Pep will use all of these elements to galvanise the team and give them a Catalonian Genius-type kick up the backside. Cheers fella.

  7. August 19, 2019  11:23 am by Lee Jay Reply

    Brilliantly written piece :)

    When liverpools gk was off his line in Turkey during the penalty shootout, nothing was done. When city players are manhandled & dragged to the ground during every corner, nothing is done.

    VAR needs to recalibrate and apply the laws fairly.

    Fairly is all we ask.

    • August 19, 2019  3:15 pm by David Walker Reply

      Agreed - nothing like a bit of fairness, and thus far we've seen nothing like a bit of fairness! If City win, lose or draw on merit we accept it for whatever it is. Crikey we had decades of practice at losing and we took it on the chin. What none of us can abide is the sneaky deceit, corruption and bias which is, sadly, all pervading. Pep can use these events to City's advantage by hammering home the need for clinical finishing. If we can get that part right, then we'll be untouchable for the foreseeable future. Thanks for your comments.

  8. August 20, 2019  1:00 pm by Richard Cooper Reply

    I think the concept of VAR is good as it is there to assist the referee.
    However the application has not lived up to expectations.
    Not often I agree with MOTD pundits but Messrs Shearer and Murphy were "spot on". The hand/arm rule is farcical !
    If it is there to assist the referee we should have been awarded a penalty. Is VAR open to bias ?. I would hope not.
    Why can't the VAR ruling be "flashed" on the screen instead of leaving spectators even more confused.
    Having said the above, as I said on FB City were guilty of missed chances and poor defending and VAR wasn't involved in that.
    As City spend more time attacking around the penalty area than most teams I expect more controversy this season !!!!

    • August 20, 2019  5:59 pm by David Walker Reply

      Totally agree the concept is right, but it's application is deeply flawed. We can only hope practice makes perfect, but for the life of me I cannot understand how City were not awarded THAT penalty. Yes, we were profligate with our finishing. If we are able to be more clinical, it could well be that VAR is of little or no consequence for City. Thanks for the feedback RC.

  9. September 6, 2019  11:43 am by Allan Reply

    VAR was supposed to be technology guaranteeing fair play to a greater degree. It has turned out to be another referee's opinion of a slow motion replay, and subjective by it's very nature. At times it has felt like we had to beat 12 men no it feels like we have to beat 13!

    • September 9, 2019  8:54 pm by David Walker Reply

      I completely agree, but I think we're forgetting the 'assistant referees', so let's call it 11 v 15. Thanks for commenting.

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